12 September 2012

White Chicken Chili (No Beans!!!)

Dear Lissy,
Now that crisp fall weather has arrived, it's time to pull out all of my soup and stew recipes.  White Chicken Chili with chunks of tender chicken and chewy hominy is flavorful, but not hot thanks to ancho chile powder.  The selling point for me?  NO BEANS!

White Chicken Chili
Adapted from Woman's World Guilt-free Gourmet
Serves 6

12 oz. chicken breast, cut into small chunks
Salt & Pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 green poblano pepper, seeded and deveined, diced fine
A plain yellow or orange bell pepper can be substituted
1 large onion, chopped 
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chiles
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. ancho chile powder
1 Tbsp. Hungarian sweet paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. dried marjoram or oregano
1 (14 oz) can chicken broth
2 cups milk
2 (15 oz) cans hominy, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Lime wedges, optional
Corn Tortillas or Masa Harina, optional

First, a disclaimer:  This chili is a deep terracotta brown when finished.  "White" refers to the chicken and lack of tomatoes.
  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Heat Dutch oven or deep saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add 1/2 of oil.  When oil shimmers, drop in chicken.  Allow to lightly brown, and stir.  When all sides are golden, remove chicken from pan and hold warm.  Do not completely cook chicken or it will be tough.
  2. Add remaining oil to pan.  Saute pepper and onion unil soft; season with salt and pepper.  Add chiles, garlic, ancho, cumin, and marjoram (oregano) and heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. 
  3. Add broth and milk.  Bring to a simmer.  Add hominy and chicken, reducing immediately to low temperature.  Cover and keep just barely at a simmer until chicken is cooked.
  4. At this point the soup/chili is done.  For a thicker consistency, stir in a masa harina a little at a time or cut corn tortillas into thin strips and add to mixture.  We usually leave the chili with a soup consistency broth and break tortilla chips into it before eating.
  5. To serve:  Ladle into bowl, top with a sprinkle of fresh parsley or cilantro, and place a lime wedge on the edge of the bowl.  White chili is also yummy with grated cheese, but that ups the calorie and fat counts substantially.
Mom's notes:  
  • I almost never used canned broth or hominy in this dish, but rather made my own to cut the cost of the dish. 
  • Recipe doubles well.
  • We never served this to company because the spices made our noses run all through supper.
  • This dish tastes wonderful if you have a head cold.
  • Shredded rotisserie chicken works well for this dish.
Lovin' you,

07 September 2012

Camp Cooking with A Personal Stove

Dear Lissy,
The weather is still sultry and humid, but next week is supposed to return to the typical brisk New England fall weather.  I love, love, love to camp and hike during September and October.  Dad is a classic type B, and enjoys the slow rhythm of starting a fire and cooking over coals.  I need my coffee ASAP, and I like the flexibility of making a meal in 15-20 minutes before or after a day of hiking.  I used a little folding metal stand with solid fuel tabs for years, but last year Dad blessed me with a Jetboil.  Hooray!  I can make coffee and breakfast in just under 15 minutes now.  It's a good thing. . .

The all-in-one Flash Personal Cooking System is a canister cooking system designed to store the stove, fuel, stability feet, and pan adapter in the cooking pot.  The cooking pot  comes with a cozy and sippy lid so I can enjoy a ginormous mug of coffee or tea without pouring it into a separate mug.  In this pic you can also see the strainer holes in the lid for draining noodles easily.  Another popular personal stove is the Whisperlite stove series, but it is not an all-in-one.
The stove sets up in seconds by popping the stabilizer and burner onto the fuel canister.  The mug clicks onto the burner with a twist, and will boil up to a quart of water in a couple of minutes.
I set up the AeroPress Coffee Maker coffee maker and express oatmeal cup while I wait for the water to boil. Now I enjoy a cup of java and wait for the oatmeal to cool.

Fitting the pan stabilizer onto the stove allows me to scramble eggies.  The burner turns down very low, so this task is as simple as boiling water.

15 minutes in, breakfast is complete, and after washing one pan, a spatula and my spork, I'm ready to roll.  The AeroPress wipes out with a paper towel, and there's no campfire to extinguish.
I had gorgeous weather for this trip, but it's nice to have a reliable way to have hot meals and beverages in rainy weather or on the trail.  I've used this system more than once to make coffee or a quick meal during a power outage, too.  Remember:  any personal stove requires a well-ventilated place like a porch or picnic table -- don't try to use them indoors or in a tent!

I hope you and your family have many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.  Cooking for a crowd outside can be a huge chore, but if each teen and adult has a personal mess kit and stove, at least some of the meals are quick and easy.

Love ya,

05 September 2012

The Royal Secret of Success

Dear Lissy,
Tucked deep in Deuteronomy are two verses that offer seven conditional royal promises:
  • The king will learn to fear the LORD.
  • The king will be empowered to obey God's Word.
  • The king will be empowered to do God's will.
  • The king will consistently have victory over pride, the root of all other sin.
  • The king will not be influenced off the path of righteousness to the right or left.
  • He will prolong his life and reign.
  • His children will follow after him.
Those promises are dependent on the king doing one simple task:  

04 September 2012

Lemony Snickets

Dear Lissy,
Some days you need a giant, chewy, knock-your-socks-off cookie studded with goodies.  Other days you just want to fill the cookie jar to the brim without spending a third of your grocery budget.  For those days, Lemony Snickets fit the bill.  Crisp or soft and buttery-sweet with just a hint of lemon, the full recipe fills our gallon cookie jar and the fish stick decoy box in the freezer.  (What?  You never figured that out?  Really?  Well, now you know.)
Soft Lemony Snickets, fresh out of the oven.  I'd bake them to a deeper golden brown for crispy cookies.

02 September 2012

Tutorial: Pitching A Tent

Dear Lissy,
Shelter is your first priority in any outdoor situation.  Knowing how to properly pitch a tent means the difference between waking up dry and snug or in 4 inches of standing water.  Start well by pitching your tent at home first. If you have trouble telling which pole is which, mark them with electrical tape or nail polish.   Put a couple of extra nails or stakes into your kit, and make sure you have a hammer to pound them in and pry them out at camp.

Pick a relatively flat spot, and remove all branches and large rocks. Lay down a ground sheet or tarp that is  a couple of inches SMALLER than your tent.  If the ground sheet sticks out past the tent, you'll get wet if it rains!  One of the most common errors we saw in scouts was kids who put the ground cloth inside.

Stake out the tent so the floor is taut and the ground sheet is completely covered.
Double check that the door is where you want it before you pound in the stakes.
Erect your tent according to the manufacturer's directions.  Now is the time to make sure the gear loft or line is secure and pop an extra flashlight in the cargo pocket nearest the door.
Secure the rain fly. Stake the sides out as far as possible. The rain fly shouldn't touch your tent except at the clips.  If the fabric of the rain fly and fabric of the tent touch, you're going to get wet!  A completely waterproof piece of plastic tarp draped over the tent may keep rain out, but it also traps moisture in.  Use the same piece of tarp and cordage to make a rain fly over the tent instead.
A close-up showing the gap between the rainfly and the tent.
Align your sleeping bag so your head is facing uphill if the site isn't perfectly level.  I had the luxury of a 4 man tent all to myself, so I slept catty-cornered.  I would have put clothes or towels under one side of my sleeping pad to level it if we had 3 or 4 people in the tent.

For a bed as comfortable as your own at home, layer a foam/air combo mat; a camp style sleeping bag, zipped so you sleep on both layers; and then open out a traditional sleeping bag so only the foot portion is still zipped.  Place a comforter over the top.  Two pillows, one firm, and then your normal pillow are much more comfortable than just one pillow while camping.  If you are camping with the fam, you get one sleeping pad, one bag, and one pillow.  Groan.
The rain fly and door/window screens can be used to adjust the temperature.  For cool or cold nights, zip it up tight.  For "normal" weather (55 - 65) leave a vent open on both the door and window.  If the temperature is much over 65, you may want to remove the rain fly if it's a dry night, or the tent will get too warm for sleeping.  In the morning, unzip all the windows to air the tent.

Tentiquette 101

  • No food, beverages, or flames in the tent.  Period.  If you have to have plain water, store it vertically in a cargo pocket where it can't accidentally spill and soak a sleeping bag.  That little pack of m&m's you snuck in will draw skunks, raccoon, porcupines, squirrels, and possibly even bears.
  • Enter the tent bum first, sit just inside the door and remove your shoes while your feet are still outside the tent.
  • Don't enter another person's tent or sit or sleep on someone else's bag/pillow unless you've asked.
  • Keep the door zipped to keep mosquitoes out. 
  • Don't run around the tents.  If you trip on a guy line, you can hurt yourself and damage the tent beyond repair.
  • A small whisk broom/pan should be included in the gear.  Make one person responsible for sweeping out the tent each day.  The little sticks and pebbles that find their way in quickly damage the floor.
Taking Down the Tent
Reverse the order, making sure to empty the cargo pockets and gear loft.  Don't leave any stakes behind!

***As soon as you get home, hang your tent on a clothesline or in a dry attic to completely dry out before storage.***

Love you in"tents"ly,

01 September 2012

Tutorial: Cookin' On Coals

Dear Lissy,
I've just returned from my annual birthday solo camping trip, and I took about a bazillion pictures of how I accomplish various camp tasks to share with you.  My first (and best) technique is one I learned in Cub Scouts:  cooking over coals in foil "schooners".
Heavy Duty Foil. . .

Tear off a sheet about 3' long.

Fold it in half .
Fold each half back on itself leaving a 1" pleat. 
You should have a "w" shaped bottom when both sides are folded. 
Make three narrow folds on each side to seal the packet into a bag.
I've placed a penny here so you can see the width of the folds.
Prepare your ingredients by cutting them into quarter sized pieces about 1/4" thick.  
For this dinner I used 2 cheddar sausages, a small onion, half a pepper, and a small potato.
Open up the bag you made earlier, and add 1 Tbsp of oil or liquid.
Place ingredients into the bag.  Items that take the longest to cook (potatoes, here) should be placed into the bottom of the bag.  
Roll the top down three times, pressing well to seal.  Make a few vents near the top of the bag or you will get steam burns when you open the packet.
Place the bag directly on the coals.
Don't place a schooner into a fire that still has live flames, but a couple may flare up once the schooner is placed.  This technique works equally well on hot charcoal briquets.
A single-serving schooner takes 30 minutes, give or take.  I gave this packet a full 40 minutes to ensure the peppers and onions were well cooked.
I also rotated it a couple of times during cooking with tongs.
***No direct heat is needed for the sides of the packet.  It only requires heat on the bottom.***
Remove the schooner from the heat, and carefully unroll the top. Contents are extremely hot!!!
Boys enjoy eating straight out of the schooner, but I prefer a plate. . .and Moxie.
You can bake almost anything you can think of in a schooner -- even biscuits.  The key is the Tablespoon of liquid or oil in the bottom of the bag, and even heat on the bottom for the entire cooking time.  Because the heat never touches the food, it steam-bakes.  You won't end up with a layer of burnt potatoes at the bottom like you do with traditional foiled dinners.  I've also been impressed that the vertical cooking style allows up to 10 packets at a time in the same fire or grill.
The best part???  NO CLEAN-UP!!!!! Yay!!!!!

 Love you, Hot Stuff!

P.S.  If you need a large bed of coals to cook a posse of packets, add 6-8 pieces of wood all at once to an established fire.  Don't add any more fuel, simply allow all of the wood to burn down into a ginormous bed of coals.  If you're only cooking for one or two, make a standard camp fire, leaving an opening in the front for a schooner.

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